Sunday, October 27, 2013

Apple kills off Keynote

I know there are bigger problems in the world. You can read all about them elsewhere. A problem just entered my world that stands to grow for the foreseeable future, and this is my blog, so…

Apple killed its decade-old presentation software, Keynote.

Keynote was Apple's response to Microsoft PowerPoint. It was originally coded solely for Steve Jobs' use. He wanted to be able to make presentations that didn't suck. He wanted cinematic builds and transitions that appeared three-dimensional rather than cheesy builds and transitions that looked appropriate for grade school. He wanted to leverage the Macintosh's processing power and graphics capabilities.

In 2001, Apple allowed Mac users to buy Steve Jobs' presentation software for $99. Over the years it was updated and upgraded. New transitions, new graphics, video, and animation capabilities. Better and more powerful with each release. PowerPoint consistently lagged behind.

I had grown fond of Keynote over the years and gradually learned how to make it do what I needed to do. Whenever a new version came out, I'd be sure to own it the day it dropped. The reflexive "wow's" I got from my otherwise jaded high school students never failed to amuse me.

But the last time a new version was released was early 2009. Before Obama was sworn in as President. The iPad had not yet been announced. Keynote 5 (iWorks '09) was fine, but was getting long in the tooth here in the second Obama administration. Microsoft's PowerPoint 2008 was upgraded in 2011 and was starting to look like a potential contender for pros designing high-octane presos.

So here it is 2013. iPads and iPhones are in the world in quantity. Google has designed and implemented Google Docs web applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc., allowing multiple-machine access via the Internet. There are iOS versions of the iWorks apps. And Steve Jobs is dead.

And in a decision that stings as much as it stuns, Apple has decided to adopt a "me too" approach to its iWork productivity suite. This past Tuesday, Apple pronounced that it had rebuilt—from the ground up—each application in the suite (Keynote, Pages, and Numbers).

They weren't kidding about "ground up". Apple decided that iPads are now content-creation devices, rather than media consumption devices. So rather than allowing Keynote to be a full-throttled computer app that leveraged the capabilities of the multi-core processors in Apple's MacBook line, it was decided that the productivity apps should be neutered and stripped down until the OS X version couldn't be used to assemble something the iOS version wasn't comfortable with.

Apple's VP presenters thought we should be delighted that iWorks apps could be used like Google Docs apps. They showed it off as if had never been seen before. In a preview at last summer's WWDC, they beamed with pride over the possibility that someone could design Keynote-y things on the web using a PC running Internet Explorer.

I feared that spelled doom. Now that fear is fully realized.

Keynote is dead. The program Steve Jobs made Apple's software engineers design so he could create bad-ass presos is no longer being developed or supported. Apple still has a product called Keynote. But Keynote 6 ('13) is related to Keynote 5 ('09) like a 1978 Ford Thunderbird is related to a 1961 T-bird. That is, not much at all.

For now, I recommend staying with Keynote 5.3 and not even upgrading to Mac OS X Mavericks. Apparently the QuickTime in Mavericks no longer supports Interactive QuickTimes, so you can no longer have a manually-advanced QuickTime export of a Keynote preso.

I don't foresee Apple reversing themselves on this or otherwise making things right. They've got multi-device, cross-platform fever. And they're giving away the apps (just like Google). But if you're someone who already has any Keynote presos created in 5.3 or earlier, the havoc that 6 will create for you will make that "free" update a downgrade you really cannot afford (in repair time and energy).

Apple will eventually make Keynote 5.3 inoperable in an as-yet unnamed surf beach OS X. I do not relish the day when I will need to export my Keynote presos as PowerPoint files to edit them in the only remaining high-octane preso editor.

Lest you think this is just me on a rant:

Medium: Apple’s iWork for Mac will only be as smart as his two dumb little brothers

Apple Support Discussion: Keynote's newly missing features

Having not switched to Mavericks and downloaded Keynote 6, I am unable to offer this review at the Mac App Store. I am, however, rating the usefulness of the posted reviews. I'm finding the 1-star reviews to be the most helpful and the 5-star reviews to be the least helpful.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I saw your link on the Apple Discussion Board... not trying to be argumentative, but I'm pretty happy with the revision and I am certainly a "pro" Keynote user. Sure there are some things I've had to "adjust" to in the last few days but overall, I find the program to be more intuitive in that it's already anticipating what I want to edit next by what I select. The new animations are great and it's got new features that I've wanted for awhile and never thought would appear (Pathfinder object tools and shadow appearance controls to just name two). I think some of the lacking items you mention simply don't apply to every power user out there. I think Keynote will continue to get better but like any software that goes through a major revision, there's some adapting to do on the user end.

Anonymous said...

In terms of features, so far as I can tell, there are a few things missing, a few major annoyances (e.g., my custom theme not importing correctly) and also a miscellany of nice feature and interface improvements.

In terms of higher level strategy, I think there's a much more hopeful interpretation of what happened here. It's clear that ~ 5 years ago Apple decided that their strategy would be based on mobile, so they invested all their Keynote energy into developing an iPad Keynote app. Then they decided it was an untenable situation to have two independent and inconsistent Keynotes, so they launched a project to unify the file formats and perhaps the code to some degree. Both of those efforts would have been substantial ground-up efforts, making it difficult for the Keynote team to spend any time on refinements to the desktop app. Where this leaves us is, possibly, a very good situation: Apple has spent the time necessary to build a good unified foundation, and now the app can evolve more advanced features at a much higher rate than it has since 2009.

I don't think this general strategy has to correspond to 'killing' the desktop app. I can easily imagine advanced features in the desktop app that the iPad can interpret and play back, but not easily edit, for example. That said, the simple fact of supporting the iPad will certainly divert some focus and make the overall Keynote experience less optimized for the desktop. I just don't think this needs to be a very dramatic difference.

Anonymous said...

My 10 yr old son is very upset that his transitions do not have colour any more. He made all his sparkle transitions match the picture.

I need to find out how to revert back to 5.3
I am disappointed with version 6.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I agree wholeheartedly with this blog post. I couldn't be more disappointed with the newest version of Keynote. Why remove many of the features that have made it such an elegant alternative to PowerPoint? I am indeed a power user of Keynote--I live in the program, basically using it all day, every day, at the University level. Since the first release I have very carefully built (and continually refined) well over 500 different lectures, using every little nuance the program offers. So, for people like me, even the removal of a seemingly insignificant build option results in an enormous amount of additional work, as well as the loss of well-crafted elements of my lectures. I can only hope that those who claim it will rapidly improve (a la Final Cut Pro) are right.

Dean Baird said...

Making the apps free lets Apple off any hook of high expectations.

The fact that Keynote hasn't seen an update in nearly 5 years communicates Apple's lack of commitment to software development.

If the New Commandment is to be that iOS and OS X versions are to be equally capable (or incapable), then we will need to find a level of patience that will make a five-year lapse seem like the blink of an eye:

Keynote will regain it's 2009 capabilities when iPads have as much processing power as Macintosh computers.

I hope to be forgiven for not holding my breath.

EricE said...

While it is inexcusable that Apple will modify your files and toss stuff Keynote no longer supports, declaring it dead is a little premature. iMovie eventually caught up and surpassed it's original version and I have no doubt iWork will do the same. What's beyond ridiculous is that Apple, for at least the third time in recent memory (iMovie, FCP and now the rest of iWork) has bungled something that wouldn't be as big a deal if they just communicated with the community. However by just tossing it out there like it's an upgrade when it obviously is a re-imagining with hopefully a delay in feature parity like with the old iMovie. Very disappointing from that aspect.

Dr. K said...

I agree completely with your post. I never ever thought of downgrading an Apple product before, but as soon as I returned from my last training presentation, I wiped my macbookair and reinstalled files from a clone I made just before installing keynote 6. What a mess apple has made of a once amazing app. Key features I've come to depend on for creating insanely great presentations have been removed or hobbled. Steve would never have let this pos out into the wild.. This is the first time I've ever been concerned about the future of my favorite company. Heard from an associate this morning that he got an error message that a file name was too long ( more than 31 characters.). WINDOZE had such problems years ago. Why now, on the Mac.?

Camryn said...

I love Keynote too. We use it to present to clients! : /

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. I use Keynote 09 on a daily basis - huge parts of my business as a trainer and team developer hinge on my presentations running flawlessly.
And I simply don't have the time to fix every bug the new version inflicts on my files. So, for me it's back to iWork 09.

Anonymous said...

Found this thread because keynote 6.0 doesn't offer transparent background anymore. I am commenting just to share a quick and duty workaround, but works nicely: make the background solid green, then in FCP apply the keyed effect.

Dean Baird said...

Likely a valid workaround.

Sadly, the market for FCP shrunk drastically when Apple kludged that app and folks switched to Premier.

Now they're kludging Keynote. Maybe they just don't want to be a software company anymore. The big money's in iPhones, iPads, and mini iPads.

They may lose interest in full-on computers in the not-too-distant future. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

I agree completely with this article. The sad thing is that this is a process that has been happening for years now (starting with the release of Lion). Finally it is getting ridiculous to the point where it is becomming obvious not only to the true "power users" but also to the average user. It is as if Apple has taken that corperate attitude that everyone using a Mac has 2 functioning brain cells and they should therfore continually reduce the functionality of the Mac OS and supporting applications. Very sad. (One of the clearest examples is the lack of multi-monitor support. Despite claims that Mavericks provides good multi-display support, the supporting Apps now make little use of multiple screens. Removing floating windows (as used in older iPhoto versions, and all the but latest iWork apps) reduces the functionality of those programs for every single Apple user with multiple screens. Shame on you Apple, shame on you!)

Bruce said...

"It was originally coded solely for Steve Jobs' use."

It was originally an app that ran in Next OS. It was then ported, or perhaps reverse engineered, to run on the Mac.

Chris Jacobs said...

The person who wrote "...not trying to be argumentative" is NOT A PRO USER...obviously...and pretends to be. Sorry...but I recommend that everyone ignore that comment. The fact that you can't cut from keynote and paste perfectly a vector in Illustrator...shows a huge lack of understanding of how a "pro" user - uses Keynote. Apple screwed Keynote and everyone who was loyal to it. Such a bummer. :(

Anonymous said...

drag & drop between latexit and keynote no longer works! are you serious apple?

AriX said...

I still use Keynote '09 for the moment as well. I think you'll be able to use the old version for quite a while if you want to. I still have iMovie '06 and it works great after 8 years.

Chris Jacobs said...

Wow I sounded angry. My apologies. I take back my very mean comment.

Tim Erickson said...

Let me say "ditto" for Pages and Numbers. I'm happy with Mavericks, but I always have to be careful when opening a doc to make sure I'm doing so with the iWork 09 version of the software.

Anonymous said...

It is alarming to hear the nasty tone of the various "pro" Keynote users in the above posts when a post appears that doesn't assault the latest iWork edition. Certainly, no one argues that Apple has disappointed everyone, pro and otherwise, by not making a stronger effort to preserve legacy features and functionality, but to be surprised and outraged that this has happened is a bit over the top: every software gains and loses features, compatibility, and functionality over time. Plus, Apple tends to ditch legacy stuff faster than everyone else. So the iWork revamp cannot be a surprise. But to piss on folks that aren't as irritated with the latest version of this particular software is silly. I, for one, appreciate being able to drop my keynote prezi into my iPhone, and deliver it through hardware that happened to have an apple tv linked to the projector (what a surprise at this particular venue, and fun!)

As a professional lecturer, I learned things the hard way years ago. I do not use "every nuance" of a particular presentation software as I know these features can easily break when moving between operating systems, projector hardware, and software "updates". I do not expect to be able to drag and drop, or copy and paste, every current graphics file format into any particular presentation software. I understand that there will be issues with every presentation software. I expect that some older presentations are going to complain when I open them in a newer version of the host software. I realize that these are sad commentaries on the state of software engineering, but I have been around long enough to realize that this is not going to change anytime soon.

Still, I use both powerpoint and keynote, warts and all, depending on the auditorium infrastructure and audience. The point is that one can be a "pro" user without using every nuance, copy pasting vector graphics, and without using latexit. Indeed, some "pro" users very intentionally avoid relying on these software-specific compatibilities as best as we can. I prefer keynote because it is simpler and thus constantly reminding me not to over-engineer my slides.

Sometimes the technology gets in the way of the real purpose of using these software visual aids: the story. Watch a presentation by Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, or Michael Alley. These are professional presenters from both the business (Garr) and academic worlds (Michael), and you will find a marked lack of use of the full feature-set of either keynote or powerpoint. Garr is not an effective presenter because he uses all the "pro" features of keynote, and Michael is an effective teacher even though he does not use animation builds and does not embed tons of content in his visuals. The presentation software and slides are not the most important parts of your talk.

As for the new keynote, it is no more irritating to me on first use than moving from powerpoint to the original release of keynote back in the day. As a scientist, I can appreciate 'simpler is better' once in a while. I have to admit, however, that I like the improved interoperability of the software with iOS. But don't get me started on apple Pages.... I'll be the first to get out the pitchforks and torches on that rollback!!
Cheers, all